E-Cigarettes have proven themselves to be a popular alternative to tobacco for well over one million ex-smokers and dual-use smokers in the UK, thus going a long way to deliver the harm reduction that is sort after by many in the medical profession.
For those of us who know that e-cigarettes have delivered us personally from the vice-like grip of tobacco cigarette smoking we find it hard to understand why e-cigarettes are not positively promoted by many of those who otherwise purport to support the harm reduction goal.
Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK have funded research by University College London into ‘Exposure to nicotine and tobacco-related toxicants in long-term users of nicotine-containing products’.
The published background to the research states “In light of forthcoming NICE guidance on harm reduction and likely MHRA regulation on e-cigarettes, knowledge in this area and further data are urgently needed to inform policy makers from both the UK and elsewhere in the world about the suitability of this approach by providing estimates of the likely impact of long-term use on health outcomes and safety.”
The results of this study are likely to be widely viewed too “Findings will be disseminated through research papers and conference presentations and through close links of study collaborators with the Department of Health, NICE, MHRA and other national as well as international organisations fed back to inform policy and implementation of guidelines”
It is to be wholeheartedly welcomed that Cancer Research UK are funding a study such as this, too often we have seen organisations taking firm positions based on scant and/or erroneous evidence. The funding for this research runs until 31st May 2014 – it can only be hoped that these results, once published, are used to inform policy in conjunction with other good evidence that is increasingly becoming available.
The phrase “and likely MHRA regulation on e-cigarettes” demonstrates that there is still a long path to walk before evidence based decision making is applied to e-cigarette policy in the UK.
British Medical Journal (BMJ)
The BMJ have made a report available in Open Access, it is entitled ‘An observational study of retail availability and in-store marketing of e-cigarettes in London: potential to undermine recent tobacco control gains?’
The title alone suggests the conclusion that they reach. I was outraged to read at the end of the report the assertion that “In summary, even if e-cigarettes are proven to provide a safe delivery mechanism for nicotine and are an effective cessation aid, their sale and use have resulted in a renewed and increasing public presence of cigarette-like objects, images and smoking behaviour.”
Here is the nub of the anti-electronic cigarette argument. Put simply the view seems to exist that e-cigarette use and availability should be restricted because someone thinks that e-cigarettes look like tobacco cigarettes and they produce vapour – regardless of the roll that e-cigarettes can have reducing the number of premature deaths brought about by smoking tobacco.
Clearly the authors of this study have not seen a Tesla with a rebuildable atomiser on top, such an e-cigarette setup may resemble many things – but a tobacco cigarette is certainly not one of them.
It is an ironic fact that the restrictions championed by the adopters of the ‘smoking normalisation’ argument would result in the cig-a-like e-cigarette being more available than its less cigarette like counterparts.
If the only objection to e-cigarettes is their perceived similarity to tobacco cigarettes in the mind of some ill-informed individuals then it deserves closer consideration.
A useful comparison to make here is the efforts being made by the Government and health bodies to reduce the level of obesity in the population. Excess body weight is thought to be the second largest cause of preventable early death in the UK (smoking is the first). About one third of the population is either overweight or obese, that is a higher percentage than that of the number of smokers.
The way to reduce weight is to reduce calorific intake and/or increase calories burned by being more active.
Excess calories are easily consumed from cans of sugary fizzy drinks, accordingly these have been demonised as one of the contributing factors to our increasing waistline. Apparently the answer, according to the NHS’s Fit4Life Smart Swaps page is to drink sugar free alternatives.
I think it is legitimate to ask why drinking sugar free pop is not considered as being a gateway to the sugary stuff nor a normalisation of pop consumption. The same could extended to ‘healthy’ cereals in comparison to their sugar infused cousins.
If sugar free pop is recommended without hesitation as a healthier alternative, why then are e-cigarettes burdened with these accusations of normalisation? The majority of vapers opt to use a fairly standard eGo e-cigarette, stand this next to tobacco cigarette and you will wonder at the sanity of anyone who thinks that anybody might mistake one for the other.
If the intension of e-cigarette vendors was to make e-cigarettes look more like tobacco cigarettes then you would expect that the batteries would, without exception, be white in order to mirror the white paper body of a tobacco cigarette. Check out ECigWizard’s ecig batteries, you will see silver, black, green, blue, red, purple and pink listed but not one in white.
It would be thought very wrong headed to make sugar free pop more difficult to purchase than the sugary, fattening alternative – but some anti-smoking advocates have suggested proposals that would have just such an effect on e-cigarette supply, making them more restricted than the tobacco cigarette.
The views expressed herein are my own and are not necessarily those held by ECigWizard
American readers should note that ‘fag’ is a English colloquialism for cigarette